U.S. sales of fixed annuities reached an estimated $24.6 billion in the second quarter, up 54.1% over year-ago levels, reports Beacon Research Inc.

Fixed annuity sales were at the highest in the quarters since its quarterly survey began in 2003.

On a year-to-date basis, total market sales were an estimated $43.5 billion, 47.3% above first half 2007.

By product type, estimated sales in second quarter, 2008 were: book value, $12 billion; indexed, $6.9 billion; market value-adjusted, $3.6 billion, and immediate, $2.1 billion, Beacon says.

Its data was compiled from 50 insurance companies, representing an estimated 87% of the market.

New York Life claimed overall sales leadership among study participants, with about $2.2 billion in sales, followed by AIG Annuity Insurance Co., $2.1 billion; and Aviva USA, $1.7 billion

Beacon’s study participants also reported impressive fixed annuity sales in banks, with second-quarter sales of $7 billion for the products, up 81% over year-ago levels. Year to date, reported sales in banks reached $12.6 billion, up almost 80% from first half 2007.